Shopping

West 14th street, the Meatpacking District’s main shopping artery, used to be surrounded by slaughterhouses and warehouses storing animal carcasses and automobile parts. Where the slaughterhouses and warehouses were, now exist familiar high-end fashion labels and main chain brands such as Lululemon, Christian Louboutin, Scoop NYC, Levi’s and All Saints. The shops in the Meatpacking District are forever changing; they adapt to the climate of the prevalent clients in the area, and respond to the nature of the stores that open up around them.

High-end stores along West 14th Street.

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THEN

 The opening of Jeffrey’s in 1999, while there will still a few meat-processing plants present in the district, marked the beginning of fashion retail in the neighborhood. At the time retail rents were around twenty dollars per-square-foot. In 2000, the launch of the hit TV show Sex and The City also had a profound impact on bringing this fresh, modern neighborhood under the attention of the public when one of the characters, Samantha moved to the district. The following fragment of dialogue was a pivotal concept within the Meatpacking District at the time:

“Charlotte: And who knew all this existed in the Meatpacking District?

Miranda: Yes, just yards away from dumpsters full of decaying cow.”

In 2002 famous designer labels such as Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney all opened on West 14th street. It was McQueen’s first US store and McCartney’s first store ever opened. McQueen chose this neighborhood for his store specifically because he thought it projected an exciting energy that is unique for New York and perfectly right for him. At this time rents increased to between forty and sixty dollars per square foot. The opening of Puma’s concept store in 2005 served as a way for other mainstream brands to enter into the neighborhood. In 2007 Apple opened their tallest structure to date on West 14th street. The luxurious and shiny advanced technological goods combined with The Genius Bar drew a whole new shopping crowd to the neighborhood. The opening of the Standard Hotel in 2009 and the first leg of the High Line in 2009 brought many tourists who wondered the streets during the daytime and thus allowed the shops in the Meatpacking District to thrive and multiply.

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NOW

Pop-up shop in the neighborhood.

Today retail rents have skyrocketed to around $300 per square foot. Many of the original boutiques have moved their stores to neighborhoods such as Soho and the Upper East Side, which they classify as more “grown-up” neighborhoods. The change in momentum caused by the exciting emergence of mass-product brands such as Levi’s, Sephora and All Saints between 2010 and 2012 altered the coloration of the clients in the area and consequently spurred the early stores to exit. Many pop-up shops lie scattered between main-chain stores and feature a specific clothing line for a time period of anywhere between one week and three months. Many a time the pop-up shops are dependent on the current season resulting in stores such as Havaianas running pop-up shops featuring their Brazilian flip flops during the summer months. The super expensive Rag & Bone store located on the corner of 13th street and Washington Street occupies a building that features signage reading “Dave’s Quality Veal” on the outside wall. This is distinctly reminiscent of the building’s past as a meatpacking plant.

                             Old signage outside luxury store Rag & Bone.
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The architecture and color schemes of the warehouses that the countless shops occupy are very similar in design and are situated close together. The notion of warehouse upon warehouse (shop upon shop) craft a sense of endlessness in the neighborhood as there is a lack of diversity of buildings and not many landmarks that stand out among the many shops. Jacobs believes that this lack of difference between buildings, and the perpetual notion that it instills in a neighborhood, leads to the annoyance that “people easily get lost in them and have a difficult time keeping them mapped out in their heads.” (Jacobs, 1961). Consequently, people might find it challenging finding their way around the neighborhood, because of the sense of “sameness” it reflects.
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Fumo, Nicola. “A Brief History of MePa History from McQueen to Lululemon.” Racked NY, March 19, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2013. http://ny.racked.com/archives/2013/03/19/the_changing_meatpacking_district.php.
New York Media LLC. “Meatpacking District Walking Tour – New York City Visitors Guide — Tourism.” NYMag.com, August 6, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2013. http://nymag.com/visitorsguide/neighborhoods/meatpacking.htm.
Meatpacking District Improvement Association. “Meatpacking District Improvement Association.” Neighborhood History. Accessed November 18, 2013. http://www.meatpacking-district.com/about/neighborhood-story.
Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. [New York]: Random House, 1961. Print.